Thursday, August 13, 2009

Times and Courier gets health care debate right

Gatehouse Media and its local papers--including the Times and Courier--have been doing a fantastic job the last week or so covering the local discussion on health care reform. Instead of concentrating on the heat of the battle between reform opponents and supporters, Gatehouse has written a couple of articles this week about the substance of the bill and the debate about the bill’s merits.

I realize that actually covering the issues instead of the emotional outbursts shouldn’t be worthy of praise, but the entire discussion about health care over the last three weeks or so has been about death panels and socialists and shouting and near-fist-fights. There has been very little about the actual words of the proposals themselves.

Against this backdrop, the coverage in the Gatehouse papers is refreshing. In their coverage of a town hall meeting held Saturday by Rep. Niki Tsongas, writer Chloe Gostis sets the scene by mentioning the tension in the hall, but then steps beyond the shouting and actually looks into the claims made in the meeting:
But some skeptics like Mary Crantz of Chelmsford, don’t think the government is responsible for helping people who can’t afford insurance or are unemployed.

“This is a land of opportunity,” said Crantz, an Air Force veteran. “Opportunity to work and serve. And the ability to choose. 250 million Americans have the privilege of insurance because they work to pay for it. Please Congresswoman Tsongas, represent the 250 million people who are willing to pay for their healthcare....”

Opponents of the bill have been disseminating information that says the Health Care Commission will decide a person’s plan and coverage. But according to, a nonpartisan fact-checking Web site run by the St. Petersburg Times, consumers can choose their plan and coverage.

Still, some forum attendees said the bill would rob them of their choices.
This is far, far better than what we’re getting from most media. The reporter here takes two sides of an argument and then goes to a source to actually find the truth. Most media organizations stop at presenting the two arguments. They have confused balance with objectivity. Reporting two views is balance. Reporting the underlying facts (in this case a congressional bill) is objectivity.

But that’s not all the Times and Courier has on the subject. On the day before the town hall, Tsongas sat down with the media for what appears to be a wide-ranging discussion of the issue. Yesterday, the T&C posted a long-form interview with Tsongas, complete with a glossary of health-care related terms, a listing of places to get further information, and the contact information for Rep. Tsongas and Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy.

Gatehouse media and the Times and Courier are doing an exemplary job covering the issue. Readers and other media outlets should take notice.
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